EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (those of you who are left, that is),
Don’t worry, I’m not going to start out with another rant about Trump — I know folks are getting tired about that. (Though I will note that they said if I didn’t support the party nominee, giant pythons would start slithering up through toilet holes to bite off our penises — and they were right!)
Instead, I’ll start with a rant about Clinton.
I’ve been thinking (“Evidence, sir? Show me your evidence.” — The Couch). I think Clinton needs to become a verb.
But first, the sort of lexicological rambling discursion few readers have been waiting for! The English language is full of words that were inspired by people.
The following (awful) paragraph contains well more than a dozen words inspired by people. Can you spot them?
Female chauvinists pushing for the mainstreaming of Rubenesque women into pop-culture have an almost sadistic desire to celebrate Lena Dunham’s relentless nudity (though some masochistic Casanovas may stroke their sideburns lasciviously at the prospect). But I’m no pompadoured martinet of the comstocks or cultural McCarthyites, arguing that “artistic” speech be bowdlerized. I will not give in to Orwellian zeal nor enlist in some Luddite lynch mob hell-bent on stopping the wattage wasted on such fare. Better to pursue a more Machiavellian strategy of boycotting until she dons a cardigan or at least a leotard.
I’ll give you a few hints: “Chauvinism” — an extreme belief in the superiority of your nation, your gender, etc. — was named after Nicholas Chauvin, a soldier in Napoleon’s army, who was a zealous partisan for his leader. Masochism — taking pleasure, usually sexually, in being hurt or abused — is derived from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian novelist who wrote about such things. This is in contrast to “sadism” — inspired by the Marquis de Sade and his love of cruelty for its own sake. He was known to invite people to his home to screen Caddyshack but when the guests got there, they were forced to watch Caddyshack II.
Anyway, so where was I? Oh, right.
We need to make “Clintoning” a thing. (I’d argue the same for Trump, but he brilliantly picked a last name that already means something. If I had his last name, every time I got into a whose-business-card-is-better contest — which is actually never — I’d slap mine down and shout, “That’s the Trump card, bitches.”)
The first problem is there are two Clintons. Back when it was really just Bubba out there, the term would be unavoidably sexual. I’m reminded of Michael Kinsley’s response when the Clinton White House was insisting Bill was simply Monica Lewinsky’s mentor. It went something like, “Yeah, right. I’m sure he mentored her senseless.”
I don’t mean to be unduly harsh — just duly harsh — but Hillary makes any of the limerick-quality double entendres unworkable. That’s particularly unfortunate because Rodham, her maiden name, is particularly well-suited for such associations. “Jeffrey Epstein’s plane was like a Caligulan entourage of Rodhamanites.”
Appetite All the Way Down
The amazing thing about Hillary and Bill Clinton is that they are united by no central idea, no governing philosophy that doesn’t — upon close inspection — boil down to the idea that they should be in charge.
Yes, I know. That’s not what they would say. They would argue that with the right experts in charge, the government can do wonderful things to help people. But what the government should do is constantly changing, according to both of them. Bill once declared, “The Era of Big Government is over.” He didn’t mean it. He certainly didn’t want it to be true. He just said it because that’s what he does: He says what he needs to say. I don’t approvingly quote Jesse Jackson all that often (though I do find myself saying, “Keep hope alive,” a lot these days), but I think he had it right when he said Bill had no core beliefs, he was all appetite.
RELATED: Habitual Liar Lies Habitually
Hillary, in her own way, strikes me as even worse in this regard. Can you name a single substantial policy that she hasn’t flipped on — or wouldn’t change — if it were in her political self-interest? Gay marriage? Free trade? Illegal immigration?
Strip away all of the political posturing and positioning, and their “philosophy” that government run by experts can do wonderful things should really be translated as “government run by us.”
Clinton’s defenders argue that her changing policy approaches are just signs of her “pragmatism.” And don’t worry, I won’t rant about pragmatism again, either. But liberal pragmatism begins and ends from a single first principle: Liberals must be in power to decide what is “pragmatic.” And when conservatives are in charge, the only form of acceptable pragmatism is . . . compromising with liberals.
That is why both Clintons are such unapologetic liars. Pragmatism bills itself as being beyond ideology and “labels.” Well, if you don’t feel bound to any objective ideological or even ontological criteria — labels, after all, are the words we use to describe reality — why not lie? Why not wax philosophic about the meaning of “is”? If attaining and wielding power is your only benchmark, the ethical imperative of telling the truth is no imperative at all. It’s just another false ideological construct.
It’s kind of interesting when you think about it. Since the Clintons respect only power, the only power they respect is that of the law. Which is why the only times they can be counted upon to tell the truth is when the law absolutely requires it — or may require it down the road. Of course, as lawyers, they are artists at telling only the minimum amount of the truth absolutely required of them. The flipside is that because they are lawyers, when they resort to legalistic language, it’s a tell that they’re lying.
For instance, when Hillary Clinton went on the Today Show in 1998 to address the growing Lewinsky scandal, she blamed it all on a vast right-wing conspiracy. When asked what it would mean if the allegations were true, she said:
Well, I think that — if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true.
Note: She didn’t say “if it were true.” She said, “if it were proven true” — twice. She had every intention of concealing the truth. It just turned out that this time her cover-up skills weren’t up to the task. This is the same tactic we see in the e-mail scandal. “There is no classified information.” We’re constantly told, “There is no smoking gun!” Which is just another way of saying, “You can’t prove it!” Not, “I didn’t do it.” Again: The server is the smoking gun.
This is the meaning most people already associate with “Clintonian,” and I’m fairly confident that meaning will last a long time. But I don’t think it goes far enough. So what would be the definition of the verb form — “to Clinton” — be? I’m thinking something like “to say whatever the moment requires, with an eye to being able to defend the statement under oath.” As in, “I clintoned the Hell out of that deposition.” Or “they asked her if she knowingly violated the law, but she clintoned her way out of it.”
But I’m open to other suggestions.
Once More, with Feeling
In my column today I go after Hillary Clinton with some gusto. Of course, that’s sort of what I do. Unlike the man who just won the Republican nomination, I’ve been going hammer and tongs against the Clintons for 20 years (when he was cutting her checks). I rarely write about all the Clinton impeachment stuff and my meager role in it anymore, because I had my fill of all that. But just as a matter of bona fides, I figured I’d note that when Hillary Clinton went on The Today Show to denounce the “vast right-wing conspiracy” perpetuating lies against her priapistic husband, they asked a supposed ringleader of that cabal to respond the next day. They invited yours truly.
In other words, I go way back in this stuff. Contrary to popular impressions, the contemporary stuff in my book Liberal Fascism was written with her in mind — I had no idea Barack Obama would come along and further confirm my thesis.
Anyway, my point is that, at least among the non-obsessed, non-conspiratorial ranks of Clinton critics, I take a backseat to no one in my contempt for the Medicis of the Ozarks. (I used to say “Tudors of the Ozarks for the euphony, but I’ve switched to the Medicis for accuracy’s sake.)
I bring this up to clarify something I’ve been trying to communicate for months, to only limited success: I’m going to tell the truth as I see it.
In response to my column today I got a number of complaints from friendly readers who’ve celebrated my opposition to Trump but are suddenly cross with me for criticizing Clinton. Here’s a portion of a thoughtful one:
Jonah — all of the Trump supporters who hammer you all the time about how your constant bashing of Trump are only helping Hilary get elected are absolutely correct. In what is effectively a two-person race, when high profile pundits like yourself and Charles Cooke or anyone else at NR forcefully argue that Trump is not qualified to be president, you are obviously helping Hilary get elected.
However, when you state (as you did today) that Hillary is unqualified to be president or, as you did in your G-file, that in a tie you would support Trump, then you are in effect supporting Trump for the very reason that Charles Murray so convincingly explained is not a good reason — because he isn’t Hilary.
Any opinion journalist like yourself who regularly calls Hilary unqualified or states that in a tie Trump is preferable, should be held complicit if Trump wins. And that is such a scary thought for all the reasons Murray laid out that it is beyond me why anyone would not support Clinton in a tie . . .
I get it. And I’ll be honest, I’m open to rethinking my position that if I had to break the tie, I’d vote for Trump. But that’s a conversation for another day. The point I want to make here — again! — is that I’m just going to write what I believe to be true and let the chips fall where they may. In this I have a slight disagreement with the likes of Charles Murray and P. J. O’Rourke. It is almost the same disagreement I have with reluctant Trump supporters like Dennis Prager: I refuse to be bound to the binary choice of being pro-one and anti-the-other. I’m opposed to them both and I’m going to say so.
James Taranto said the other that #NeverTrump is more Ayn Rand than William F. Buckley.
I think he’s almost surely wrong about Buckley, but his point about Rand is useful. You wouldn’t expect Ayn Rand to rally to either candidate. Invocations of “party unity” would mean nothing to her. And while there’s a very long list of reasons why I am not like Ayn Rand, on this narrow point, consider me a Randian.
#related#Or better yet, consider me a Nockian. Albert J. Nock had contempt for politicians of all stripes, because they were handmaidens and priests of the Leviathan State (I don’t quite go that far, but I’m getting closer by the day). If you asked him to say things he didn’t think were true about, say, Al Smith or Herbert Hoover, he’d laugh. If you said, “But if you don’t support Hoover, Smith will become president!” He’d turn to the camera like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places when the Dukes explain that bacon is “what you might find in a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.”
If this course makes me irrelevant, so be it. But I should say, the rabidly pro-Trump folks in my Twitter feed are suffering from a bizarre cognitive dissonance. They insist that I am an irrelevant shmuck at a dying magazine with no influence whatsoever. Simultaneously, however, they also argue that if Trump loses I will be to blame for Hillary Clinton’s being president. They both can’t be true.
When Congress took up the Wall Street bailout bill almost eight years ago, John Boehner said, “I think this thing is a crap sandwich” — but he’d vote for it anyway. I said at the time, “It is crap sandwiches for as far as the eye can see.” I was right. What I hadn’t appreciated is how far past the horizon the massive fecal sub would stretch.
To change the metaphor just slightly, the choice we now face is between two different s*** sandwiches. One may have better condiments or fresher bread. One may come with fries while the other comes with noodle salad. I am open to arguments that one meal is, on net, better than the other. But I am not going to stand here and say one is tuna on toast or the other is bologna on rye. It is what it is, and the most I can do is describe the menu accurately.
As a country we will in all likelihood have to eat one or the other meal over the next four years (and we’ll be told to like it). For those of you who might still care to listen to me then, I’ll be able to say, “You were warned.”
Various & Sundry
Earlier in the week I took exception to Deirdre McCloskey’s assertion that eugenics and social Darwinism were features of the “Right.”
Canine Update: Poor Pippa is still on the injured reserve. She’s actually moping right next to me as I smoke a cigar on the balcony at my office. Trying to keep a Springer Spaniel from running, particularly after tennis balls and nature’s version of them — squirrels — is like trying to keep Bill Clinton in his chair at a wet T-shirt contest. When I take the dingo out, Pippa looks at me like the unloved step child whose dad won’t take her to the amusement park. The only good thing about the whole situation is to see how much these beasts actually love each other now. When I bring her home from the office, Zoë greets her like one of those dogs greeting their soldier-master back from deployment. It’s adorable.